A high school senior, Michael Gravante, loves everything about the theater. Since first grade, Michael has been performing locally and he plans on pursuing a theater major in college. As a 17-year-old boy who is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, this is an amazing goal to set for yourself.

Elaine Gravante, his mother, shared the struggles Michael has had in the WBUR; she mentions some setbacks that have happened due to sudden changes, disturbing images and unexpected elements of certain theater productions they have gone to watch. Fortunately, those setbacks that Michael has had did not stop him from still being, as his mother describes him; a walking, talking Broadway encyclopedia.

Michael actually began to participate in Greater Boston Stage’s Young Company as of 2014. This production company is preparing its first incredible sensory-friendly production for people with autism and other sensory and cognitive needs. The theater’s education director, Dori Robinson, works with the cast and crew to tone down any lighting or sound designs to make, Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol, more pleasurable to a neurodiverse audience. Elaine revealed that communication between their staff and her family was what was essential for Michael to succeed.

Bridgette Hayes and Antonia Turilli in Greater Boston Stage Company’s “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” (Courtesy Greater Boston Stage Company)

Due to the changes that the Greater Boston Stage’s Young Company has done for Michael, and many other diverse communities, changing the way he felt about how the theater production runs and let him grow to be his authentic self.

Elaine continues to tell WBUR, that theater saved Micheal as well as the whole family. She says that it has given him a purpose, it has given him love and has found a place where he can be comfortable and call his home.

This story made me feel very encouraged to go out and try new passions of mine. Micheal is a wonderful influence on others who are also diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This is true because he demonstrates independence and determination when it comes to his love for the theater.

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